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LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS
ISSUE ONE 2016 PARTNERS
BY INVOLVING THE
Innovation in the way extension services are delivered
to Pakistan’s subsistence dairy farmers is raising productivity
n Women and children proved instrumental to the
rollout of productivity-enhancing extension services
to Pakistan’s dairy sector.
n Women have helped raise productivity both as farmers
and as extension officers, demonstrating talent that
has opened doors to their higher education.
BY DR GIO BRAIDOTTI
ubsistence farmers in Pakistan rear up
to 60% of the nation’s buffalo and cattle,
mostly in herds of fewer than 10 animals.
The milk produced from these herds is
hugely important to Pakistan’s food security and
to the economy.
In 2005, total milk production in Pakistan
exceeded 29 million tonnes and has increased 5%
per year for the past 15 years. As the world’s fourth-
largest milk producer, Pakistan’s dairy industry is
the largest livestock sector in Pakistan and is valued
at Rp360 billion (A$4.9 billion) per year.
Demand, however, is anticipated to more
than treble by 2020, requiring a faster boost
in production. This growth in demand makes
smallholder farmers essential to national
aspirations to raise productivity, and creates
opportunities to reduce poverty. To that end, dairy
is a central focus of research, development and
extension activities within the Australia–Pakistan
Agriculture Sector Linkages Program (ASLP).
Improving extension services—and the way
they interface with researchers and farmers—
was identified as a major bottleneck in the
development of the dairy sector and was targeted
for Australian technical support through the ASLP.
Of particular concern was the style of
communication with farmers, the information
available to extension staff, the skills and numbers
of extension staff and a failure to consider problems
and solutions within whole-of-farm systems.
With phase two of the extension project now
complete, farmers are finding it is possible to
double milk production.
However, uptake of these farming innovations
was found to hinge on a critical factor—the ability
to include women and children in extension
activities, according to Dr David McGill of Charles
Sturt University, who has played critical roles
throughout the project.
Dr McGill explains that many aspects of dairy
farming—other than marketing—are performed by
women and children. Yet extension services were
male dominated and targeted to the male heads of
households ... to the consternation of these men.
As one male farmer said to Dr McGill: “ Why
were extension officers talking to me? I have never
touched a calf. They need to tell my wife because
she won’t listen to me.”
To reach the women, ACIAR commissioned
Professor Peter Wynn of Charles Sturt University
to head a project that saw Dr McGill travel to
Pakistan. There he assembled a team that included
many young early-career scientists and interns
from the University of Veterinary and Animal
Sciences of Lahore. The aim was to innovate the
way extension services are delivered.
Essential to his team’s success was the
recruitment of women, who paired with a male
extension officer to visit villages. Together they
disseminated relevant information in a way that
targeted entire farming families. The female staff
included Zahra Batool, Shumaila Arif, Sobia Majeed
and Khadija Javed.
“ The most important people to work on these
projects are the women who work on the ground,
on a day-to-day basis,” Dr McGill says. “In the [past]
five years we had about five women within our
team who established and maintained discussion
groups of both male and female farmers running
concurrently. The impact has been incredible.”
Impressive gains in husbandry and milk
production were achieved often on the back of
simple changes to farm practices.
For example, high calf mortality rates (50–60%)
were reduced simply by allowing newly born
calves to receive disease-fighting antibodies
that are present in colostrum (produced by their
mothers’ mammary glands late in pregnancy) as
soon as possible rather than waiting, as farmers
were doing, until the placenta was expelled.
“Smallholder farms have the means to reduce
calf mortality rates and the project confirmed
Sobia Majeed (centre) with some of the female dairy farmers she worked with in Sindh, Pakistan, over the
four projects in which extension services were innovated and tested in partnership with ACIAR.
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